Monday, November 26, 2018

Signal Overload

A serene and unrelated photo from my recent trip to Kyoto.

Way back in the day, several blogs ago and when I was in college, a close offline friend that I shared my blog with commented that she found it "surprising". Specifically, she was startled that I had so much to say when I came across so quiet in person. 

I didn't quite know what to make of that. I'm a proud introvert, and am on the shy (even antisocial) side of that spectrum by nature, but I also don't think of myself as quiet. Among other things, I'm a rather loud, even somewhat "fierce" public speaker, including in mock trial-like settings. Some have even said I come across condescending or "mean" (though I believe that last comment to have been influenced by sexist implicit bias because my performance was, at worst, equal in tone and fervor to a male colleague's during that same session). I also feel like it should be obvious that I have tons to say, and a nearly inexhaustible energy to say it, to analyze and dissect just about any topic, even rather small ones, from every conceivable angle. Just look at everything I've written here! Heck, I recently wrote more than 2000 words about items I'm already sure I shouldn't buy. And then there's my prolific Disqus commenting history. (Which doesn't even factor in the many discussions I participate in on the many wonderful blogs I follow that don't use Disqus.)

Not only do I enjoy all this "talking" (by which I mean, internet-based writing) related to my blog, I also have a voracious hunger for internet-based conversations elsewhere about the topics I'm interested in. Over the years here, I often link to discussions on Reddit or on much larger blogs like Corporette or internet publications like Refinery29. I'm generally following along with various discussions in all those places on an almost daily basis, concurrently with the writing and commenting I do as a blogger. Privately, I like to think of all this as a talent of a sort, that I can be thinking about and writing about so many topics in my limited free time. In actuality of course, I know that's silly of me. Having this kind of internet habit definitely does not make me special! Among other things, although I'm not an avid participant on, say, Twitter or Instagram, I understand enough to know that many people happily use them for a dizzying amount of substantive discourse every single day (for example, with the recent #ethicalfashionrepresentationmatters discussions on Instagram), even if I largely lack the know-how or will to jump into the fray on those platforms myself.

So I've been trucking along with all these habits of mine for years now, throughout all the time I've blogged here, without too much of a break, except for a hectic few months here and there, including when I studied for the bar. And I've never been tired of any of it. I was even a little proud of my inexhaustible energy for internet-based discussions. I talk about some of the topics I write about here with offline friends sometimes, of course, but not that often. I can be a bit "too much" about it all and can quickly exceed other people's interest in the topics I want to chatter on about at length. Most recently, offline friends were slightly perplexed by my determination to discuss Tara Westover's Educated (affiliate link) with them before any of them had even read it. I did at least convince my sister to read it, and she devoured it even more quickly than I did, so I consider that a win!

Except, all of a sudden, I've started getting kind of... tired. Spoiler alert (being presumptuous for a moment and assuming that people would miss me): I'm totally not going anywhere! I'll still be blogging, and I'm still eager to follow along with everyone else's blog and chime in to discussions everywhere. I just think the frequency of my writing here and my blog commenting elsewhere might drop for a while, until I'm back in the mood. And I think I need to spend less time reading certain anonymous internet discussions out there if I know they're not a great influence on me, or a good use of my time, namely things like Refinery29 Money Diaries comments sections and certain types of discussions on Twitter or Reddit. Yes, I did just sign up for Twitter again, but I'll be careful about who I follow.

It should be obvious that if I know something on the internet or on social media isn't good for me, if it consistently tends to make me less happy in an irrationally intense way, I should stop looking at it. I had thought I was very good about taking steps to do that too, especially on Facebook, where I have a hard-line zero tolerance policy for things that annoy me even a little bit. The moment I notice that someone's posts make me unhappy or angry, they're gone. I immediately hit unfollow and never think about their posts again.

Similarly, I only follow or link to blogs I genuinely like. Regardless of whether they're monetized, they're all people I think are smart and interesting and wonderful, and whose recommendations I trust as being true to their own tastes. So I'm basically never directly exposed to blog posts I don't enjoy, or that I find inauthentic or overly commercial. And well, I've also mentioned that I feel like I don't understand Instagram (I barely "get" how to use hashtags, for crying out loud!) well enough to really feel bad about myself because of it. I do get self-conscious about the extreme weakness of my photography skills in comparison to just about everyone else's, but that mostly just makes me more appreciative of the talent and effort that others put into their feeds.

So it came as a bit of a shock for me recently to suddenly realize that, actually, maybe I'm starting to feel a few twinges of feeling bad about myself because of social media, for the first time since I was in my earlier mid 20s. And I'm just like, "seriously?!" I have no idea where these first twinges came from, they seemed to arise spontaneously in the last few weeks or so, even though I didn't change any of my Instagram or other habits before it happened. I'm really quite confused. 

I guess these faint first twinges of renewed "comparison is the thief of joy"-type feelings is a little bit because, if I really think about how much the world of social media has developed in ways largely beyond my wildest imagining (and how the goalposts for what's considered a "good" or "big" number of subscribers have moved far beyond numbers I had ever contemplated), doesn't it make all the time I spend writing here, in this very old-fashioned, 2008-ish blogging way, seem a little... strange? Like it might not be an efficient use of my time?

And then I feel super-silly that the thought crosses my mind at all. I mean, I've known for years, maybe even close to a decade, that blogging (and then other, newer social media platforms) were developing far too fast and in too big a way for me to really keep up as anything more than a casual hobbyist. When I started up here at this version of Invincible Summer, I made the conscious decision to blog in a rather "old school", "mirror selfie outfit photos" way because that's what I enjoy reading and seeing, and it was what I missed most after I stopped following blogs for a while around 2009 or 2010. Anyway, I think I'll quickly get over this strange little bout of insecurity. 

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